Kate Middleton Mothering Day photo, pulled from news agencies for suspicions of manipulation at source (pictured with Instagram warning on photo as shared by Kensington Palace)

Tabloids Falsely Accuse Harry and Meghan of Manipulating Images Like Kate Middleton Did

After trust in Kensington Palace was undermined due to a photo manipulation scandal being attributed to Kate Middleton, tabloids tried to drag Prince Harry and Meghan Markle into the mess with false allegations against professional photographers.

It’s been an embarrassing few months for the Prince and Princess of Wales’ Kensington Palace, culminating in being deemed no longer a trusted source and likened to North Korea and Iran after Getty, Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, and Reuters halted distribution of a photo of Kate Middleton with her kids because it appeared to have been manipulated at its source.

On Monday, a second photo taken by Kate Middleton of Queen Elizabeth II at Balmoral in August 2022 with many of her grandchildren was flagged by Getty as “enhanced at source,” after news outlets issued a “Kill notice” for a Mothering Day photo of Kate Middleton with her children, that had been manipulated to the point of being an inaccurate representation of events. On Wednesday, Reuters updated “its procedures related to vetting images from Kensington Palace after confirming a second altered photograph,” a spokesperson said.

Pete Souza, the former presidential photographer of both Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan, pointed out that the Middleton Mothering Day photo manipulation wasn’t just “photoshop,” which is used to process professional images, but rather a “fake” or “altered” image — something he pointed out that former President Donald Trump also did while president.

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And so naturally, on Wednesday Rupert Murdoch’s Page Six jumped in to accuse a professional photographer of digitally enhancing Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s son Archie’s christening portrait based on an editorial note in Getty’s system.

However, this note has since been removed and Getty has confirmed the image was not altered. Photographer Chris Allerton called it not only false, but defamatory to suggest he materially changed the image, “It would be utterly false and indeed defamatory to suggest that I had somehow changed or materially manipulated any of the subjects or content of the image.”

How did that note get there?

Maybe the note was there while the photo was “under review,” as it seems all royal photos are right in the wake of “KateGate” (but then why isn’t that note on all the photos?), but professional photographer and recent Oscar nominee for his short film The After, Misan Harriman wrote that the note never should have been put there:

“I’ve just spoken to Chris Allerton, Getty Images should never have put that editors note on his image, I am sure @gettyimages will make a statement about this in due course. More importantly the newspapers should have spoken to him and Getty to be 100 percent sure BEFORE publishing what has now become a global non-story about his work. He’s a great photographer who doesn’t deserve any of this. Please leave this man alone.”

This is not the first time tabloid media has tried to conflate what’s happening with Kate Middleton’s photographs with the Sussexes, who left royal life in March of 2020 and eventually settled in Southern California.

Last week, the above mentioned Misan Harriman was falsely accused of manipulating an image of the Sussexes’ pregnancy announcement for their daughter Princess Lilibet. Harriman responded by doing what Kensington Palace (KP) still has not, which was to share the original and the metadata:

It’s notable that both of these instances of false accusations of photo manipulation play, perhaps unintentionally, into online conspiracies about the Sussexes’ children, which are steeped in a dangerous racism.

Both accusations about the photos of the Sussexes are also not only false, but neither image have the cloning issues that the two images taken by Kate Middleton have that are visible to even the untrained eye once you know where to look.

News agencies are currently on high alert for fake and deceptive AI images and video, along with deep fakes like the fake call using President Biden’s voice to tell voters not to vote that day. The fake Kate photo was offered to their fans in an attempt to convey that she was okay, even though they hadn’t seen her since her surgery announcement. When it turned out to be fake, concerns grew.

News services are combing through photos from Kensington Palace now, which many royal supporters think is unfair. Some supporters say ‘everyone does it.’

But that’s the point. People at home putting on a filter or “photoshopping” a family photo because it’s hard to get a good one of squirming kids is not the same thing as a photo shared by members of the Royal Family, especially during a period of time in which the Princess of Wales has not been seen since Christmas.

However, unlike King Charles who has also been battling health issues, the Princess was not seen leaving the hospital and neither were her family seen visiting her, other than a brief one-time visit by her husband, the Prince of Wales.

The secretiveness of Kensington Palace became the center of international attention when Prince William failed to show up at the last minute for a memorial service for his godfather, for which he was scheduled to speak, which took place on Windsor grounds, where he is said to live.

There have been a total of three sightings of Kate now, one of which involved her in a car with her mom looking unwell distributed by the American outlet TMZ, which was not approved by the Palace and so was not shared by British media, the second was this Mothering Day photo that was taken down from news services, and the third was a TMZ video published Monday, which is so grainy as to cause even more conspiracies to thrive.

Of course everyone is entitled to their privacy, but there are pretty standard ways of assuring people that a public figure is okay, including a clear video of the person opening cards from well-wishers or a still photo with a message to supporters. When these aren’t done, it raises questions.

The Backstory:

Perhaps the tabloids are keeping in mind that Princess Diana was chased to her death by tabloid photographers, although her brother Charles Spencer pointed out that the scrutiny of Kate Middleton is not as dangerous as the press attention paid to Princess Diana. But then, the tabloids do not show this same level of concern for privacy for others. Awareness of the difficulties experienced by several “married-ins” is being raised for Americans, which is likely not a welcome outcome given that it corroborates issues raised most recently by the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry.

It’s troubling to see the impact of media intrusion — especially on women, whom our culture loves to build up and take down low, from Diana to Hillary to Meghan to Britney to Kamala to Kate: Misogyny is thriving.

For example, Kate Middleton took responsibility for the alterations of the Mothering Day photo that led to the highly unusual “kill notice” at the same time as British press were saying how terribly ill Kate was. The original photo was also tagged as being taken by her husband. It’s hard to imagine Kate working away in her sick bed to create a fake photo, but then a recent video published by TMZ and The Sun showed what we are told is a healthy Kate Middleton carrying a bag after her abdominal surgery (the Internet is not buying this video either, though).

It’s worth asking why her husband isn’t shouldering the responsibility for a photo he supposedly took.

When racism is added to this toxic mix, it can become untenable.

In January of this year two neo-Nazis were jailed for 15 years for terrorism against Prince Archie, the first child of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. In 2019, a “far right” teenager who “branded Prince Harry ‘race traitor’” and suggested he should be shot was jailed for four years.

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle were recently chased by photographers in New York City after an event. In February, a NYPD letter presented as part of a lawsuit by the Prince in Britain substantiated the couple’s claims “that they were victims of ‘reckless’ paparazzi chase.”

These threats of violence against the couple and their children are alarming, and raise questions about why the tabloids are trying so hard to drag the non-working royal Sussexes into this PR disaster, knowing that the hate being stirred up is dangerous.

Prince Harry is currently suing several British tabloids over allegations of unlawful news gathering tactics which they deny, and has recently settled a suit with the Mirror Group. On Wednesday March 20th, “lawyers for victims of unlawful information gathering – including Prince Harry – will seek to add further explosive allegations into the mix… sources have likened the allegations to a ‘crime novel in which the twists read like mafia story,'” Byline Investigates reported. Indeed, earlier on Wednesday, the “current Editor of The Sun Victoria Newton has just been named in Prince Harry’s High Court case for allegedly unlawful information gathering.”

It’s notable that many of the outlets mentioned do not disclose this potential conflict of interest in their articles on the couple.

As the Royal Family grapples with this photo PR crisis, trust in the stability of their role is being undermined. If we look at that in the larger context of the attempted destabilization of the west and add in that Russia ran a false story days ago claiming that the King was dead, we can see connections to our own institutional crisis in the U.S. — as well as the results of exploiting hate and division.

All photos from Kensington Palace will be reviewed, and that will likely include photos of the Sussexes when they were working royals.

But the tabloids, some of whom are being sued by Prince Harry right now, are wrong to conflate a false photo with their general hate machine against the Sussexes. The world is watching now, and it turns out that much of what Prince Harry and his mother Princess Diana said about the tabloids is true. Just watch how soon they try this again, with disregard for the professional reputations of the photographers or the threats against the subjects.

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